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Ortega releases Monsignor Rolando Álvarez from La Modelo

Diplomatic sources reveal that “there is contact between the Government, the Episcopal Conference, and the Vatican” to release and send him into exile

monseñor Rolando Álvarez

Image of the bishop of Matagalpa, Monsignor Rolando Álvarez, which was published by the dictatorship's propaganda media at the end of March 2023.

Redacción Confidencial

5 de julio 2023


The bishop of Matagalpa and apostolic administrator of the diocese of Estelí, Monsignor Rolando José Álvarez, was released on Monday night, July 3, from the Modelo prison by orders of the ruler Daniel Ortega, and is now under the protection of the Episcopal Conference.

Ecclesiastical and diplomatic sources confirmed to CONFIDENCIAL that Monsignor Rolando Álvarez, "is no longer in the Modelo prison", where he was in a maximum security cell since February 9, 2023, after being sentenced in a mock express trial to 26 years and four months in prison for the alleged crimes of "conspiracy against national sovereignty and propagation of false news".

"We know that there are contacts between the Government, the Episcopal Conference, and the Vatican to free him and send him to exile", indicated two diplomatic sources, but they said they do not know what are the terms of the negotiation and if the bishop is still detained.

His imprisonment

Monsignor Alvarez was arrested and transferred to Managua in the early morning of August 19, 2022, after two weeks under house arrest in the Episcopal Curia of Matagalpa. 

In the police operation four priests, two seminarians, and a cameraman who accompanied him were also transferred. The priest was transferred to Managua under house arrest and the others were locked up in the Judicial Assistance Directorate, known as El Chipote. 

During his imprisonment, the Ortega dictatorship showed the bishop publicly only twice. The first was in December 2022 when the priest was transferred to the courts of the Criminal District Hearings of Managua where he was accused of conspiracy to commit undermining national integrity and propagation of false news to the detriment of the State and Nicaraguan society. 

The second occasion was on March 25, 2023, when the dictatorship published, through its official media, a series of photographs and videos of a meeting between the bishop and two of his brothers. The images showed the bishop visibly thin, pale, and gray-haired. Since then, his health and physical condition have not been known. 

Sentenced to 26 years in prison 

Monsignor Alvarez is the first bishop in Nicaragua to become a political prisoner. For his prophetic voice, he was persecuted since before his arrest. In May 2022 he had to take refuge in Managua after the police raided his sister's house. In retaliation, they also closed the television and radio media of the two dioceses he administered. 

On February 10, 2023, the justice system of the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo finally sentenced him to 26 years and four months in prison in an express trial held one day after the prelate refused to board a plane that would take him to the United States along with 222 other political prisoners who were exiled. That same day he was also denationalized. 

Since then, the bishop was transferred to the Jorge Navarro National Penitentiary System, better known as “La Modelo,” where he remained in a maximum security cell known as “El Infiernillo,” which according to some political prisoners, the cell is about two and a half meters long by two meters wide, unhealthy and without ventilation.  

There “the heat provokes greater anxiety, desperation, the desire to run away,” said former political prisoner Yubrank Suazo, who has been there on two occasions. 

The imprisonment of the bishop has provoked waves of solidarity at the international level. The last one was promoted by the European Parliament, which asked for “proof that Bishop Rolando Alvarez is alive.” The MEPs also reiterated “their call for his immediate and unconditional release and that of all political prisoners.”

Last March, Daniel Ortega's regime broke off relations with the Vatican hours after Pope Francis described it in an interview granted to Infobae as a “Hitlerian dictatorship” and considered - “with much respect” - that the leader suffers from “a mental imbalance.” At the same time, he praised Bishop Alvarez, of whom he assured: “He wanted to give his testimony and did not accept exile.”

Persecution of the Church

After the arrest of Bishop Alvarez, the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega increased the repression against the Catholic Church through prohibitions of religious activities, freezing of bank accounts, the siege in parishes, and the expulsion of at least 84 religious, including priests and nuns, including the auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Managua, Monsignor Silvio José Báez.

According to monitoring carried out by exiled Nicaraguan researcher Martha Patricia Molina, it is estimated that 44 religious and 40 nuns have left the country in the last five years, but with greater emphasis, between 2022 and the present.

The last ones to be added were the nuns of the Poor Fraternity of Jesus Christ, of Brazilian origin, who were expelled from Nicaragua last Sunday, July 2.

On June 28, 2023, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) issued a resolution ordering the Ortega Murillo dictatorship to release the bishop. This resolution is in addition to others that the IACHR Court has issued for months in favor of dozens of people considered political prisoners in Nicaragua, the last of them in January 2023, without being complied with by the Ortega government.

This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by our staff.


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Redacción Confidencial

Redacción Confidencial

Confidencial es un diario digital nicaragüense, de formato multimedia, fundado por Carlos F. Chamorro en junio de 1996. Inició como un semanario impreso y hoy es un medio de referencia regional con información, análisis, entrevistas, perfiles, reportajes e investigaciones sobre Nicaragua, informando desde el exilio por la persecución política de la dictadura de Daniel Ortega y Rosario Murillo.